"...yet when I insert the memory stick into the laptop nothing happens"
Perhaps Autorun is turned off - this is actually a "good thing" as some viruses can exploit autorun.
Use Explorer to see if the USB stick appears as a drive when you plug it in - if it does, you can look at what's on it in the same way as any other drive.
If it never appears as a drive - please post back. Whar OS is on the laptop.